This is a guest post by a moderator from Sarbat.net.
Last week was Vaisakhi, one of the most important festivals in the Sikh calendar. Although originally celebrated as the spring harvest festival in the predominantly agricultural-based society of northern South Asia, its significance for Sikhs comes from the fact that the Khalsa, or the â€˜Brotherhood of the Pureâ€™, was created by the last living Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, on the day of Vaisakhi in 1699 AD.
However, there are some Sikhs who feel excluded from any concept of a Sikh brotherhood due to prejudices within South Asian culture rather than for any dogmatic reasons. One specific group of Sikhs who feel particularly marginalised are those who are gay.
Punjabi society suffers from extreme machismo, and any deviance from the norm is deemed reprehensible and unacceptable. Unfortunately, this machismo has managed to permeate the Sikh establishment in Punjab, with the Akal Takht (recognised by many Sikhs as being the ultimate arbiter of Sikh religious affairs) issuing an edict in 2005 which stated that the concept of same-sex marriages originated from â€˜sick mindsâ€™ and being â€˜anti-humanâ€™, whilst making no reference to what the Sikh holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, has to say on the matter.
This has led some Sikhs believe their religion to take a similar approach to homosexuality as the Abrahamic faiths do, when the truth is that the Guru Granth Sahib is mute on the subject of homosexuality. The only references to sexuality within the holy scripture are that one should not be enslaved to â€˜kaamâ€™ or lust, something which applies equally to heterosexuals and homosexuals.
Sarbat.Net is a website which has been set up to be a one-stop resource for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people who consider themselves to be Sikh, providing a safe environment for such people to discuss various issues affecting them, as well as publishing articles and leaflets on the subject of homosexuality and Sikhism.
The website is also collecting testimonies from its readers to give an insight to what it means to be gay, Sikh and British in the 21st century, and the one theme which is recurrent is that people at times feel torn between their Sikh identity and their sexuality, often questioning whether it is possible to be both gay and Sikh at all.
Sikhism is, at its core, an egalitarian belief system which acknowledges that all men and women are born equal. It is a religion of equality. This Vaisakhi, during the pomp and celebrations, please remember those Sikhs who are marginalised in the community, not through choice, nor by doctrine, but by prejudice towards their sexuality.
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Filed in: Religion,Sex equality,Sikh